Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Hubs

I think...it's time to give Matt a fancy blog name.

I've envied other blogesses who call their husbands by these cool monikers. The Pioneer Woman calls her main squeeze Marlboro Man. It makes sense, he's a rancher. I saw another blog where the writer called her husband Coach. I love that. Another is Fletch, although I'm not sure if that's the guy's real name. My dad is not called Grandpa by my niece Emily, he's called Chief. I came up with that gem.

Speaking of Dad...do you know he ran for political office in our old hometown years ago, and he ran as The Husband? My mom was a columnist and she only referred to him as The Husband in her columns. And he won.

But it's time. It's time to make Matt more than the Husband, or Matt, or the Hubs. He deserves something better. Something that people at events will shout across a field when they see him. "Hey, Discobuns!" or something like that. Although he would probably divorce me if he was known in the event world as Discobuns.

But I would giggle a little. Every time.

Matt's a lot more than a husband, though. He's a great support that I couldn't live (or afford to have my horses or this life) without. He helps me with night check, seven nights a week. And only complains when Siggy bonks him in his eagerness to get goodnight carrots. Or when Topaz tries to eat him. And he's an essential groom that helps wrangle an overexcited Zeus, or wanders away with him to graze in the best possible spot while I run around setting up tack and finding my medical armband. He's the one who last night, as I fretted about balancing an eventual family and my own selfish goals of going up the eventing ranks with Zeus who said, "You won't lose your goals or your drive. I won't let you, and that awesome horse out there won't let you. Especially since he runs to the fence line and whinnies at you every time you walk out the door."

But that's because I let Zeus do this.
He's eating our front lawn. Free landscaping! Yes, Zeus gets to roam the nice lawn and eat his heart out when Matt's not home.

So what name would you give Matt? He's a coach, groom, sugar daddy and garbage taker-outer.
And he takes great care of both of us. Me and Zeus, I mean.

I also can't forget to mention that he makes one hell of an omelet.

There's nothing I love more than a good nickname. What do you think?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Open Wide

I have a confession to make.

I hate the dentist.

Like, absolutely loathe, would rather eat brussel sprouts for a week, no-you-can't-make-me hate the dentist. Our dentist is a lovely lady, don't get me wrong. But...yeah. Anyway.

Matt has been bugging me to make a dentist appointment for a few weeks. So I finally caved. Aren't you proud?

But, the dentist wasn't for me! Maybe you saw that one coming.

Every year, the horses need their teeth checked out and "floated." Basically, floating is the art of filing down the sharp ridges and edges on a horse's teeth so they are smooth and flat, ensuring a horse that can eat happily and hold a bit in its mouth without pain. You see, a horse's tooth grows continuously through their lifetime, so floating their teeth actually helps them maintain a healthy mouth, gums and appetite.

Brian Stuart, who I've known for a long time, came to visit TMF today with his game face on. Everyone - Zeus, Topaz, Siggy and Snoopy were all in for a treat. Well, not really. But they thoroughly enjoyed their dinners this evening with their comfortable mouths!
Brian does what's called traditional dentistry - it's all done by hand.
Literally. (I feel like he's going to pull a Mary Poppins and produce a floor lamp or loveseat out of Siggy's mouth!) By the way, Siggy is sporting a speculum - a fancy little device that keeps his mouth open so Brian can go hunting around in there without having his arm gnawed off.
Everyone was very well behaved - Snoopy seemed to be dozing through most of his floating session - and they're all resting easy tonight.
Zeus asked Brian if he could get some diamonds put on his teeth. He wants a grill that all of his homies would be envious of.

To learn more about traditional equine dentistry, head over to Brian's site for some good information. And think about it. That little metal hook thing your dentist comes after you with isn't as bad as ten giant files, right?

Right.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Joy in Fall

This weekend was the official start (right?) of Fall. I used to loathe fall when I was younger. It meant back to school time. Cold. Dark mornings waiting for the bus.

As I got older, fall meant hunter paces, great events with incredible foliage and crisp weather, and the approach of my most favorite holiday - Christmas!

I was talking with a student the other day and mentioned the fact that I work so hard in the fall so I can eat my weight in Christmas cookies in the winter, and not feel guilty.

But the Fall season in it's own way demands homage. Like when I bite into a local NY Macintosh apple and it's crunchy, sweet and outstanding. Like when student Alan brings fresh carrots from his local farmer's market. Giving the horses a warm mash for dinner and just hearing the satisfaction from their slurps and enjoying the lack of flies vying for space in the barn.

I think Siggy showed his love of fall one bright and chilly morning last week. Everyone else had already wandered out to the field after breakfast, and Siggy, after getting every last morsel of his grain, wandered out as well. He stopped. He looked around, as if checking to see if anyone was watching him (evidently, I don't count). Then he let out a huge squeal of joy and leaped off all four feet at once, hopping, twisting and cavorting his way out to the field.
Siggy loves fall. I think I do too.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Perspective

Today started out balmy with breaks of sun. Knowing what was coming, I got out and rode my horses and client horses early, before the rain.

After the rain, a cold, raw wind began to blow and with it, a real sense that Fall is not just on its way, it's here and it's camping out in our yard.

But it's all good, because that gives me the go ahead to crank up the oven and bake some oatmeal molasses cookies, the sweet introduction that has become a ritual to make every Fall.

It's all about perspective, right?

I'll be honest - I didn't want to write the prior blog post, because our elimination at King Oak insinuated failure, because we didn't complete the event. I've only been eliminated a handful of times, and each time it's been a lesson learned. This was no different - I learned that Zeus needs to become so bored with water that he practically rolls his eyes when I point him at a puddle or stream to cross.

My mom made the most poignant remark when we were packing up the truck and trailer to head home from King Oak. She said, "Well, at least you are walking away from here, instead of being carried off in an ambulance."

So true. My last venture to King Oak was 12 years ago, and it was at that fall event that my arm was crushed and thus ended my eventing career for more than a decade. I left King Oak that day in an ambulance, with my Mom in the front seat, and our fantastic dog Scruffy sitting between she and the EMT who was driving.

(Funny side note: We got to the hospital, and Mom walked in the ER with Scruffy. The attending nurse took one look at Scruffy, then my mom and said dryly, "She's a seeing eye dog, is that right?" Mom said, "Oh, yup, sure she is, wink wink!" Scruffy was admitted into the ER and then allowed to lay at my feet. That was before some poor nurse came in with a washcloth before giving me any pain meds and attempted to scrub out the pieces of dirt, rocks and even links of my watch that were embedded in my arm. I'm pretty sure that nurse quit.)

Long story short, there may be some snickers from the peanut gallery over an elimination - a so-called "failure" to some. However, that moment - that elimination - will only magnify the success that has yet to come. The important thing is that we're out there doing it, instead of standing on the sidelines critiquing others. When something doesn't exactly go the way we want it to, we go back to work, hone and perfect it, and come back to try again. There are no successes in life without failures to teach us to be better. To rise above it.

I remember all too well the first half of the cross country course, with Zeus flying over jumps he'd never seen before - trusting me implicitly to not steer him wrong. That is success. Jumping his second clear stadium round, at his second event. That is success. Relaxing enough in his dressage test so the judge can see the potential he has. That is success.

And most importantly, we left King Oak on our own steam, with a smile on our faces and hope for the future. That's a really great feeling.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Day of Almost

We are home from King Oak. And it was a Day of Almost.

We arrived bright and early to get Zeus settled in to the atmosphere and scope out everything, and to our surprise (and delight), he was downright calm, short of a few whinnies and spins when we arrived.

Just past the halfway point on cross country, Zeus decided the water jump was not something he wanted to contend with. At the end of the day, we were eliminated due to his refusals to enter the water. However, it wasn't a "Screw you, I'm not going into this water and you can't make me," kind of refusal, it was more like, "I don't know how to navigate this and I'm a little afraid." There was no yelling, punishment or attempts to force him in - that would have been a step backwards in his training. Instead, we walked away from it, and back towards home - ready to try another day.
However, he had moments of brilliance today - moments of sheer joy and triumph for this horse who was performing in only the second horse trial of his career. He improved his dressage score from our test at Riga Meadow by an astounding 8 points, leaving us in 8th place after dressage. We even got a 7 (out of 10) in our Freedom and Regularity Collective Marks. A 7!! It took a year or more to get a 7 on anything with other horses, let alone the collective marks.
Stadium jumping was a twisty, turny, narrow course with colorful jumps sandwiched between two exciting jump warm-up areas, the announcer's booth, and one of the galloping lanes for the cross country course. He was foot perfect through the combination. He handled tough lines and tight turns with ease, despite his size. I was over the moon. We had a clear round, which moved us up to 7th place!
The cross country course was tough but fair. There were two combinations on course, and a number of jumps that made the horse and rider act as a team and have a strategy. Over every fence before the water, Zeus soared. He took me to the fences and was relaxed and having a ball. If he had gone through the water, we would have ended the day in 4th place.
So, now I have homework to do. The season is winding down, but we will be crossing every puddle, stream, creek, and lake available to us until it bores him to death. Although we didn't complete the day, he was light years more relaxed than he was at Riga Meadow, and so much more focused on the task at hand. That in itself is a victory.

Nothing worthwhile is easy, and we'll get there. One foot in the water at a time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Polo for Conan

I'm about to head outside and braid Zeus for King Oak tomorrow, but this is too good not to share. Except he should have been wearing a helmet, tsk tsk Conan!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Practice Puddles

So the countdown is on. King Oak is on Saturday.

We have been busily preparing - working on our dressage and doing small jump schools here and there. But I have to admit, I think our biggest challenge will be the water obstacle that I'm sure is on the cross country course.

It's not that Zeus is being obstinate - he quite honestly doesn't understand the question in front of him yet. Knowing that practice makes perfect, I headed over to Mistover, a barn nearby that has a water complex to school. I also had a lesson with Jayne Marino, a certified Dressage instructor and former eventer. Good friend Karen came along to assist in the Zeus wrangling and took a bazillion photos. Karen boarded her horses at Mistover before she moved them home, and it's easy to see why she loved it there - it's a beautiful barn and the horses get treated like celebrities who are also family members.

I asked Jayne to do some work with us on Dressage - after all, it's her specialty - and I have to say, she kicked my butt. We were moving, flexing, forward, flexing, straight, flexing...I felt like Gumby by the end of the session. Zeus was a star with his work ethic, trying really hard every time I asked more of him.
Showing Jayne my Jazz Hands

After the flatwork, Jayne and I discussed Zeus' jumping history, and I got into a XC frame of mind.
Having a nice little canter

And then we were off to the water!
Doggy paddle

The most pivotal thing Jayne said to me was, "If he refuses water - in his mind, he saved your life. He doesn't know he won't drown in there." Very interesting, and gave me a chance to better understand his reluctance. And so we stood there, in front of the water.

It took about 5 minutes, and then Zeus let out a big sigh and stepped forward into the water. After that, it was no holds barred - we trotted in, trotted out, trotted in again, cantered out - and I think he was having a ball splashing around in there. That's what I want him to think - that water is fun!

We're headed back to Mistover later this week to school the water again. Depending on how he approaches it for a second time, I think will be a good indicator how he will do at King Oak.

Today we rode at home, in the ring. We're having tons of rain, so we spent some time splashing around in grassy puddles and trotting through them. Practice makes perfect.